There are several diagnosable reasons why people would have to use walking crutches: traumatic fracture to any part of the leg, post-surgical wounds including knee and hip replacements, single-leg amputation, sprained ankle, and reduced lower limb mobility due to age or disease. Such medical circumstances would either require them to be completely non-weight-bearing on the affected limb or to walk with a slight hobble while using the weakened leg(s) and distributing more supportive weight through the arms.
We will be exploring the following questions regarding crutches in order to better understand why people would choose a certain ambulatory aid over others:
Which Is Better: Underarm Crutches Or Forearm Crutches?
Underarm crutches are starting to fall by the wayside due to unnecessary discomfort with use. The padded tops of the underarm crutches are planted firmly in the armpit regions where a network of nerves called the brachial plexus is located. Prolonged pinching of this region causes auxillary nerve pain and can cause portions of the arms to go numb with use of the crutches. Forearm crutches redistribute the pressure across the forearms and wrists, which increases comfort with use.
However, there are some circumstances in which underarm crutches provide more support and safety then forearm crutches. If the user has poor upper body strength, specifically in the shoulder muscles groups, the triceps, and the biceps, then they will struggle significantly with using forearm crutches. Stabilization is sketchy, which results in the shoulders elevating up the ears and increasing the risk for falls.
Could I Use Crutches Instead Of A Cane And Vice Versa?
This truly depends on the individual’s medical conditions that merit the use of an ambulatory aid. If the user is non-weight bearing on one leg, then a cane will not provide the proper support for walking. Additionally, clinicians often frown upon sending a patient home with a cane if they have had recent surgery to one or both of the lower limbs. A single-point cane should be an upgrade from a walker and from crutches once the patient can decently weight-bear through both feet.
In some cases, walking crutches can be a great substitute for a cane, especially if the user experiences hand and wrist pain with using a cane or feels unsteady with a single-point cane. Forearm crutches would displace pressure from the wrist and place some of it on the forearm to reduce unnecessary joint pain.
Could I Use Crutches Instead Of A Walker?
A standard walker provides four points of contact with the ground to offer more support as the user pushes weight through the device. Crutches only offer two points of contact (plus one foot), reducing the base of support. Underarm crutches have a smaller base of support as compared to forearm crutches because planting them into the armpits drastically reduces flexibility for the user. At least with the forearm crutches, the user is allowed to extend out the shoulders allowing for a wider base of support.
A walker is helpful for someone who has decent upper body strength. Users with questionable back extensor strength (muscles groups that hold the upper body erect) are more stable at a walker than they are with crutches. For users who want to progress from a walker to crutches, it is recommended that they consult with a physical therapist who can provide them a full body assessment and rule out risks for falls.
Do I Have To Use Two Crutches Or Could I Just Use One?
Some users would like to have the option of having one hand free in order to carry out certain daily living tasks. If the user is allowed to bear weight through both legs, then they could in fact get away with using one crutch. Using a single crutch would be more similar to using a single-point cane, with the exception of the weight-bearing pressure through the arm looking slightly different.
I Have Problems With Both Legs. Can I Still Use Crutches?
Certain medical conditions that affect both legs make it pretty obvious that using walking crutches is not a viable options. Examples include paraplegia, bilateral lower limb amputations, and non-weight bearing precautions on both legs. In order to safely use crutches (underarm or forearm), the user must have use of at least one leg.
There are some medical exceptions.
For example, if the user experiences bilateral total knee replacements, they can typically get back on their feet within days after the operation. Once approved by their doctor, the patient can use walking crutches in order to move with two, brand new knee joints. Individuals with general weakness through both legs, despite the medical condition, should weight the benefits and risks of using crutches and probably consult with a specialist regarding other ambulatory devices.
Can I Use Crutches Long-term?
If the user feels more comfortable and safe during walking or static standing, then using walking crutches long-term can be a good option. Disorders that require long-term use include Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and post-stroke conditions to name a few. Degenerative disorders that gradually weaken muscles and joints will drastically impact a person’s ability to walk. If the user continues to retain decent upper body strength and the functional use of at least one leg, then either forearm or underarm crutches could work.
What Should I Be Considering If I Need To Use A Wheelchair Instead Of Walking Crutches?
The following circumstances would be why someone would choose a wheelchair over walking crutches: the user lacks upper body strength to push through crutches safely, the user has limited or no use of both legs, the user lacks abdominal and back ex-tensor strength to maintain and upright position, and the user has tried using a walker and still feels unsafe in walking.
Active individuals often fear depending on a wheelchair because of the risk of losing muscle strength with extensive sitting. Such persons should consult with a physical therapist and/or a primary physician for advice about making the switch.
- Telescoping parts are manufactured with internal bushings and external lock nuts to provide totally silent usage
- Vinyl-coated, tapered, contoured arm cuffs
- Heavy-wall, high-strength aluminum tubing
- Black components hide signs of wear and scratches;Height Range: 5 - 6'2(Inches)
- Tall Adult has a 250-lb. weight capacity, Patient height, 5'10"-6'6"; Adult has a 250-lb. weight capacity, Patient height, 5'0"-6'2"; Youth has a 250-lb. weight capacity, Patient height, 4'2"-5'2"